Sweat is Sticky
I pulled the car over in the bike lane but kept the engine running. It was 6:15; Wendy and I were already fifteen minutes late for dinner at a friend’s house. Somehow, we had entered the wrong address into MapQuest and found ourselves in a strange neighborhood pretty far from where the friends lived. We were stuck. You know the feeling, don’t you? It’s the feeling of hopelessness because, no matter how much you try to surface a clue that will wake up another clue and then another clue until you remember everything, you can’t. And, the more you think, the less you remember and the more frustrated and hopeless you get.
Yet I thought and thought, shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and saying,
Was it by the 405? No, that doesn’t sound familiar. What kind of houses do I remember seeing when we were there last? What was the name of that one street we turned left on? Or was it right? I remember telling myself, that’s a nice name for a street. It was one syllable and colorful. Maybe it was a color. Red, blue, orange, purple? No, none sounds familiar. What good would remembering that street do anyway? It’s not around here. I remember turning right on a street that had numbers and I think it had three numbers like 151st.
We were pretty high on a hill. When we were at the friend’s house before, I did remember being up high. But I saw another hill more to the west that seemed more familiar. To get there, we had to go back down the hill to the 90 freeway. As we started down the hill, I remembered something that would eventually get us to our destination. That other hill was above a very busy street, Coal Creek Parkway. I don’t know how or why I thought of Coal Creek Parkway but when I did, I said, “Yes, Wendy. We need to find Coal Creek Parkway. Do you remember, the first time we went to their house, we got on that street?” She kind of nodded but I knew it was coming back to her.
I saw Newport way. Now this is before the 90 but I knew, if I made a left, Newport would take us to Coal Creek Parkway. Wendy trusted me. It took ten minutes of wondering if I had made the correct choice (or made things worse) before I saw Factoria Blvd. I knew Factoria intersected with Coal Creek Parkway. We pulled into the left turn lane. We had a fifty-percent chance of being right. Either Coal Creek was to the left or it was to the right.
But then something happened that increased our chances greatly. A teen age girl was walking on the other side of the street, looking at her iPhone, which every member of that breed does. They text and walk at the same time. Shall we call it “Wext” or “Talkxt.” (Heck! When I was a teen, I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time so I guess I shouldn’t judge, especially someone who was about to help us.) I opened my window and, as nicely as I could, trying not to scare her or have her think I was some weird dude, asked, “Excuse me. (She looked up thank God) Which way on Factoria is Coal Creek; this way (pointing left) or that way (pointing right). She pointed left just as the light turned green. I thanked her and we turned left.
Then I told Wendy, I know there’s a left turn ahead and that when we got to it, it would be very familiar. Was I talking to myself? Yes. I was trying to talk that street into being, I suppose. But guess what? There is was, Forest Street. Remember earlier that I was trying to remember a street that was one syllable and a color? This was it. A Forest is green.
Wendy remembered the next street we needed to turn on and at about 6:30, we arrived.
As we drove toward home at 9:00 and laughed about our experience earlier, I asked Wendy a question I now want to ask you. “If we were to be invited to dinner again one year from now, would be have a better chance of finding it (without instruments or MapQuest) because of our struggle?” Without hesitation, Wendy said the mental exercise to remember where the house was has greatly increased our chances of recall.
Why do I want to ask you that question? If you are a teacher and you have given your students a problem to solve, and (most importantly) you know they have all the information to solve that problem, and you want them to remember how to solve it on the test, goodness gracious sakes alive; don’t give them the answer. Let them sweat. Make them go deep into their memories to pull out those clues that are on the tip of your tongue. Don’t do it no matter how many sad puppy eyes are looking at you. Don’t do it. If you love them, let them struggle and sweat. You see, struggle and sweat makes things stick because it forces them to store information into their memory themselves. Isn’t it easier to find something you put away, rather than something someone else put away?
I washed my hands in the company restroom, waved at the automatic paper towel dispenser, dried my hands, wadded up the wet towel, and then came the big decision. How was I going to get that towel into the waste basket?
You see, I never just drop it in. That’s too easy. Having played basketball, I look at a waste paper basket differently than the average bear. To others, it’s a receptacle for discarding material that is no longer of use. To me, it’s a target. The problem is, it’s such an easy target to hit. It’s so close and low, and with a difficulty rating the same as Yao Ming would have with the ball under the basket and a five-year-old guarding him, hands tied behind his back. That’s why I ask myself, “How do I make this more difficult?”
So far, the most taxing shot I have mustered up is a left-handed behind the back, off the wall shot, as I’m moving toward the exit door. It’s pretty hard because, well, it’s left-handed, but also because that paper towel is not made to bounce off a wall. And when it’s wet, it doesn’t bounce at all; it just slaps against the wall and slides down. So, in order to make that wet towel come off the wall six inches (the usual distance the trashcan is from the wall), you need to generate a substantial amount of velocity. But here’s where it gets interesting. The degree of velocity you generate is inversely proportional to the amount of accuracy. Two weeks ago, I missed to the right and the towel hit the floor just when a fellow employee came out of a stall and it was embarrassing. (Good thing I didn’t know him.) If he didn’t know I was the one who hurled it, I would have walked out of the restroom without picking it up. But, I was busted.
You ask, why don’t you move the waste basket up against the wall? I would, but I have a conscience. Both God and I would know. In golf, you play the ball where it lies. In Wastepaper Basketball, you play the Basket where it is positioned. In the morning after breakfast, it could be four inches away but in the afternoon, it could be a foot away. You never know. Here’s a tip; if it’s a foot away, after drying your hands, wrap another dry towel around the wet one and give it a snap. If you put some hip action behind it (like Maksim Chmerkovskiy doing Rumba on Dancing with the Stars), you’ll get more bounce.
I’m shooting 83% so I need to increase the difficulty. In the coming weeks, I’m going to try going between the legs, around the back, and, for extreme difficulty, do it when you have an audience, like when someone is entering the restroom. If I can still make the shot under that degree of stress and intensity, I’m good.
Have a great day.
The Making of Basketball’s Masters
Has the game of basketball changed since I played?” The game has changed but the players have changed more.
Today’s basketball player is being coached year-round during the season, in camps, and in summer basketball.
Yesterday’s basketball player was coached during the season. Improvement between seasons was up to him.
Today’s basketball player is standing on the court, ball in hand, waiting for a coach to show him how to make a great move.
Yesterday’s basketball player went on the court and tried out moves he saw a great player make, and then invented new ones of his own.
When something doesn’t work well for today’s basketball player, he stops, looks at his coach, and asks, “What did I do wrong?”
When yesterday’s basketball player screwed up, he asked himself, “What did I do wrong? Let me try that again.”
Today’s basketball player is being shown how to do things that work, and mimics the demonstrator.
Yesterday’s basketball player “learned by doing,” made mistakes and, in doing so, discovered what worked and what didn’t. Thereby, yesterday’s basketball player learned “why,” not just “how.”
Below are some of yesterday’s self-made players. They were coached, but coaching just wasn’t enough for them. Grounded in the basics, every one of these players learned by doing and invented beautiful things of their own. They are some of basketball’s greatest artists.
Elgin “The Rabbit” Baylor (Nickname should have been “Hang Time.” Elgin would jump at the basket, hang in the air while floating to the other side of the basket, and make a reverse layup that hit the top corner of the board with so much spin, you would think, ‘That shot has no chance of going in.’ But, it did.)
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (He invented the “Pearl” move, a dribble-spin that would rocket him past the defender. It was like watching ballet. And that’s what most defenders did; they watched.)
Julius “Dr. J” Irving (The precision of his acrobatic moves would make a surgeon see the need to go back to Medical School.)
George “Iceman” Gervin (Cool, while he scored on you with the left hand, right hand, reverse lay-up, finger roll, switching hands, you name it.)
Lloyd “Whirl” (not World) Free (Twirled, whirled, and curled around defenders. It was like watching Barnum and Bailey.)
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon (Nickname should have been “Fake.” He faked you until you were exhausted. Then he would dunk on you.)
Michael “Air” Jordan (Michael wasn’t satisfied with a normal dunk. He wanted to embarrass you so bad you looked like a junior higher.)
Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Looked like a master speed juggler on the fast break. No one knew where that ball was going, not even God.)
No coach could teach these players this stuff. After the coach grounded them in the fundamentals, these unsatisfied, anxious, and restless ones built extensive arsenals and became Basketball’s Masters.
For the things we have to learn before doing them, we learn by doing them.
John Wooden Preferred to Lose a Game
There I was on the basketball floor at Pauley Pavilion, working on my hook shot, ready to begin practice. But this was no ordinary practice. It was Monday, January 25, 1971, the first practice after UCLA’s (the Wicks, Rowe, Patterson team) devastating loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday, January 23rd. It was our first loss of the season. As always, Coach Wooden blew the whistle at 2:59, we put the basketballs back on the racks, and sprinted to mid-court for the pre-practice gathering.
The atmosphere was strange and unfamiliar because, up to that point, Mondays had always been times for celebrating an undefeated weekend. This was very different. We lost. Was the handwriting on the wall? Was the loss a sign we were not going to win the championship that year? Were we not as good as we thought we were? We didn’t know what Coach was going to say. For the first time, practice was closed to the public, which was a clear sign he was going to address the results of that game. Was he disappointed? Was he going to emphatically explain to us how we screwed up?
It seemed cold in Pauley Pavilion that afternoon. The silence was deafening as we soberly waited, shoulders slumped and eyes toward the floor, for our leader to speak. I don’t remember exactly what Coach said but I know one thing; he didn’t say a word about that game. With a friendly smile, he calmly and confidently explained what we were going to work on that day. In other words, it was business as usual for Coach Wooden.
But it was far from business as usual for us. It was serious practice and the most productive one of the season, by far. That loss served to surface our weaknesses and we were eagerly ready to deal with them. We knew, if we were to repeat as champions, those weaknesses needed to be strengthened. If not, a good team like the Irish would beat us. We worked hard, harder than ever. That day, we listed to Coach better than ever, paid attention to detail better than ever, and encouraged each other better than ever. That day, we became a team that refused to lose. We didn’t lose a game the rest of the season.
Notre Dame had done us a favor. That one loss on January 23, 1971 helped UCLA to win its 7th national championship.
I didn’t want to lose a basketball game, but I actually preferred to lose a game toward the end of the regular season.
Six Things You Must Do to Become Teacher of the Year
Among countless other honors, John Wooden was named NCAA College Coach of the Year in 1964, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973. Volumes have been written on the subject of how he did it but I believe that information can be packaged as follows. John Wooden did six things to become the great teacher he was. Each quote is his.
1. Fully-Organized for Maximum Production
The coach who carefully plans the practice session, and devises the necessary drills to meet the needs of the team, has greatly increased his chances for success.
2. Highly-Skilled in Pedagogy
You have not taught until they have learned.
3. Caringly-Involved in Giving Fair Treatment
The most unfair thing to do is to treat everyone the same.
Fairness is giving each player the treatment he earns and deserves.
4. Encouragingly-Motivates Players Through Focus on Self-Improvement
Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing, you made the effort to become the best you can be.
5. Emphatically-Demands Teamwork and Consideration
It’s amazing what a team can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.
6. Industriously-Engaged in Continuous Improvement
When you’re through learning, you’re through.
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
Teachers who are organized and efficient, work hard at the beautiful art of creative instruction, tailor-make their treatment for each student, motivate students by directing attention to self-improvement, consistently enforce consideration and cooperation, and work hard and steady at attempting to reach perfection, will probably, at some time, be nominated for teacher of the year.
The Teaching of the Fundamentals of Basketball
Most ball games are lost, not won.
Mr. Stengel is referring to mistakes made at the end of games, when the score is close. Most basketball games are lost with poor execution of the basic fundamentals, in the final minutes of a close game: A bad pass, a missed lay-up, a missed easy jump shot, a fumbled rebound or pass, or an unnecessary foul. This means, the coach has not drilled in the proper and quick execution of the fundamentals to the point where they are automatic at high intensity and high speed. You see, at the end of games, things get more intense and they speed up.
The fundamentals must be drilled and drilled and drilled until the players are able, without conscious thought, to execute them properly and quickly, at high speed, and under intense pressure.
Most basketball coaches, at all levels, stop teaching the fine points of the fundamentals somewhere during the season and replace them with more scrimmage.
The greatest college men’s basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, drilled in the key points of basketball’s basics, every day, from the first practice until the one before the final championship game. Season-long, during fundamental drills, he emphatically harped on us about such details as the straight elbow, the proper spacing of the feet, the low turns of a back pivot, and the straight arm jab that gets you past a player trying to block you out.
A Lesson from John Wooden on Public Speaking
Have you had the privilege of hearing Coach Wooden give his speech on The Pyramid of Success? I have heard it many times, in person, and, each time I did, I was more amazed at how he was able to hold the full attention of every person in the audience for the entire presentation. I was amazed because he didn’t tell one joke, didn’t try to entertain, and said nothing about his coaching success. All he did was make one point and support it with useful information in a very simple and organized way.
I write this because you may be a person who is asked to address an audience from time to time. You might be one who people think has something to say, something others can learn from. If you are, you might already be a polished speaker. But for those who are not, here are some principles for effective speaking, based on John Wooden’s speech on his Pyramid.
Put Yourself at the Same Level as the Audience:
Coach was always introduced with a long flattering list of his accomplishments. When he was given the microphone, he told a story of how an Indiana newspaper once printed (when Coach was just starting his coaching career in the 1930s), “The Rotary Club’s speaker was John Wooden, although they had hoped to get a more prominent person.” So the first thing to do is, in whatever way you can, put yourself at the same level of importance as the audience.
Get into the main point quickly. That’s what they want to hear:
The next thing Coach did was get into the story of how he came upon creating the Pyramid.
Make the Main Point:
Then he made his point: Success is the peace of mind, which comes from self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable. Everyone, no matter what talent God has given him or her, can be successful if he or she makes the effort to be the best he or she can be. You will know that by being self-satisfied which leads to peace of mind.
Support the Main Point:
Then Coach went through each of the fifteen blocks of the Pyramid. Each block was a sub-point which supported his main point. He used six quick steps to make his sub-point. I’ll use the block, “Industriousness,” as an example.
1. State the point
2. Define the point
Hard work with careful planning
3. Elaborate the point
Nothing worthwhile can be obtained without hard work. There are no shortcuts.
4. Give examples
In this day and age, we have found faster ways to do many things. Microwaves can cook in a fraction of the time. Whereas it used to take a week to drive cross country, we can now fly there in a few hours. But when it comes to becoming your best, there are no shortcuts.
5. Illustrate the Point
Grantland Rice, a sportswriter of The Great Depression, in his poem, “How to be a Champion,” wrote,
You wonder how they do it;
You look to see the knack,
You watch the foot in action
Or the shoulder or the back.
But when you spot the answer,
Where the higher glamours lurk,
You’ll find in moving higher,
Up the laurel-covered spire,
That the most of it is practice
And the rest of it is work.
6. State the Point again
There is no substitute for hard work.
Some other considerations:
1. Use humor but don’t try to be funny.
2. To illustrate a point, use poetry, real stories, and quotes. Mix it up.
3. Have only one main point you are trying to make.
4. Everything you say must be connected to the main point. If you take a rabbit trail, you will lose the audience.
5. Make an outline and write out the entire speech, word-for-word.
My younger brother, Ibo, died in September of this year. We were very close. My mother died in July of last year. I miss her greatly.
I live in Issaquah, Washington. My mother and brother lived in Michigan, on the same block. Since my mom passed away, my brother didn’t touch anything in the house. When I arrived last weekend to box, store, and clean, except for the spider webs and mold on the ceilings and walls, the house looked like my mom was still living there. I expected her to come back. I was there four days, from early morning until evening, and she didn’t.
Vietnam Veterans were scheduled to come the first day, between 8 and 5, and pick up donated items. I spent the first half of the day going from room to room, with boxes and large contractor trash bags, selecting charity items. I gave them almost all my mom’s clothes, the jackets and slacks she used to wear when I came to visit. Some of them she had when I was a kid. That was emotional for me, yet, I told myself, “Somebody else needs these. Put them in the bag.” And I did, shirt by shirt, jacket by jacket, slacks by slacks, sock by sock, hat by hat, shoe by shoe, sometimes hesitating just a reluctant and nostalgic second before putting the item into the bag. I was done by about noon and Vietnam Veterans came about three.
As it happens, the first day was also trash day. Fortunately, the truck didn’t arrive until well after noon. So after all the charity things were out on the porch, I got going on what needed to be thrown away. Wow! Was that difficult also! It’s one thing to give something of my Mom’s away for anther to use, but quite another to throw it away altogether, knowing it was going to be tilled underground that same day.
There was quite a bit of mold in the house. It was centered around the air vents and on some of the walls? It was spotty black and not healthy. I wore a mask; don’t worry. Some of my mother’s clothes were damp so I threw those away. I gave some of the spices to Tom, a dear friend who had helped my mother much in many ways and was also helping me. But throwing away some of the food items was difficult. While in the kitchen, I could almost smell the aroma of my mother’s Indonesian dishes. Nobody could cook like that woman. Nobody.
Anyway, you get the idea. It was closure for me to go through my mother’s things. I even went through all her paperwork and I found hundreds of pictures, some of me. She had saved my Jefferson Junior High School student body card, with my picture (no wonder no girl like me). She saved a piece of wood I had roughly carved at 6th grade camp. Both were sitting on her desk in her bedroom. On her desk was one item that reminded her of each of her six children. I miss my mom.
This Thanksgiving, I want to thank my mother, once again, for the mom she was to the six of us.
I know she is with the Lord and at peace. That’s so good to know.
Three Steps to Self-Control
When taking, what I thought was going to be, a quick scan through John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, my eyes slowed at one block I had not really paid much attention to in the past. It was almost as if I was seeing it for the first time. The title of the block was “Self-Control.” As I read the title, the definition I generated was so powerful and heart-piercing, it boldly held a mirror up to my very being, the person who I really am, and asked, “Do you have this or not? Are you in control of yourself?” I was afraid to answer.
One week has passed since that day and, everyday, several sober times per day, I have had encounters with that mirror. “Do you have control of yourself?” Those sober moments occurred usually when I was standing directly in front of a difficult choice of some kind. That choice was often between something I really wanted to do and something I really should have done (i.e. watch a Matlock rerun or open my mail that had piled up for three days).
A choice between TV and mail is not very important when compared to the serious choices some of us make every day. The diabetic is face to face with a cake, the alcoholic with the calling drink, the overweight person with an extra portion, the angry one with the urge to let the emotions fly, the lazy one with the temptation to push that snooze button one more time. We all know what is right and what is wrong in each case but yet we succumb to the pull, stop resisting, and, like a lamb to the slaughter or a mindless zombie, with outstretched arms, we go and do what we have been convinced do, usually by ourselves.
When we do, we demonstrate and prove, once again, our lack of self-control. In other words, when a beautifully-dressed dessert pulls me in and I eat it when I know I should not, I have, at least for that moment, relinquished the reigns of my life to that sweet temptation. I do not have self-control.
“Come on, Swen! Nobody’s perfect. Everybody slips now and then.” That is true. Everybody slips. But Coach Wooden has called us to move to a higher level than “everybody.” The definition for success in his Pyramid states:
Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction of knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.
Therefore, in order for us to have the peace of mind that accompanies knowing you did your very best to develop yourself to your potential, we must do our best to develop fifteen traits in our lives, and “self-control” is one of them. It makes sense. In sports for example, if you cannot control your emotions, move yourself to initiative when it is needed, or manually turn your mind to the task at hand, it is impossible to become the best you are capable of becoming. However, when I am trained to control myself, I can improve greatly and I can perform greatly.
Without question, Coach Wooden was a person who had control of himself. About ten years ago, when visiting Coach Wooden in his Encino condo, I asked him upon leaving, “Are you going to watch the Lakers game tonight?” He responded, “Not if I can help it.” I think he would have liked to see the game but he had better things to do. I have seen and heard him say “No” to things I would probably have said “Yes,” to. He always looked before he leapt.
How do we get self-control? Some say, self-control is mind over matter or mind over body. They say, when the mind is behind the steering wheel, one has self-control. It’s more than that. One has “self-control” when the wise part of the mind (the part that knows the right thing to do) has control of the rest. One has self-control when the wise mind—at a family gathering where you know one member there is an recovering alcoholic—immediately decides not to have a beer, even though some people are. That’s self-control. How do we get self-control so that we can become the best we can be? There are three steps: Practice, Practice, Practice.
The Worth of a Life
When your life is over, what will it be worth to those you leave behind?
My brother, Ibo, died September 12 and this weekend I attended the memorial service and burial in Troy, Michigan. What was Ibo’s life worth? As I met people my brother touched, who I had not met before, and they told me how he affected their lives, I came to a conclusion; He was only 61 but his life was worth so much more. I had no idea he was such an amazing person.
Dr. Ibo Nater was a home-visit doctor, driving to the homes of people who were unable to get out of their houses. But Dr. Nater usually went above and beyond the call of duty. When making a visit, it was not uncommon for him to do some plumbing, fix a bed, or wake up a druggist and have him fill a prescription in the middle of the night. And he would go get that prescription for the patient. He is greatly missed by his family, but also by his patients.
The Worth of a Life
Swen E. Nater
The worth of a life is not measure in days,
Nor hours, nor years, nor in any such ways.
It’s measured in stories, precious and sweet,
Remembered by those who we touch when we meet.